Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Water Safety Promoted in Prince George’s County

Sisters Victoria and Grace Ayeni smiled as they held an aquatic bar float during a recent swimming lesson at the Southern Area Aquatics and Recreation Complex in Brandywine.

The girls, ages 6 and 4, received instructions on how to tread and duck their faces in the water and how to safely step into and out of the pool.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the girls’ parents assist them in the water with swim instructors teaching from a distance.

“This is great,” their father, Olayinka Ayeni, said after a May 5 swim lesson. “I don’t know how to swim and I don’t want that for them. It’s a wonderful experience for me to spend time with them in the water and we all learn and have fun.”

Swimming becomes a hot topic of conversation every year as the temperatures rise.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which oversees year-round athletic and leisure programs in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, recently joined other agencies nationwide to promote National Water Safety Month.

A one-day, worldwide event will take place Saturday, May 15 to celebrate International Water Safety Day with a “Tread-A-Thon.” Prince George’s County residents can donate at https://bit.ly/3vJsFg3 with 50 percent of the proceeds to help the parks and recreation department staff become certified water safety instructors, lifeguards and pool operators.

The other 50 percent will support education and outreach — sorely needed after two people drowned in a pool May 1 in neighboring Charles County.

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office said Haffis Olanrewaju Agboola, 44, of Hyattsville, drowned as he tried to save his 7-year-old daughter, Christian Omofolawe Agboola who jumped in an uncovered, in-ground pool.

A 17-year-old boy, who the sheriff’s office still has not identified, jumped in the pool to help them, required medicated attention. Emergency personnel transported the teenager to Children’s Hospital in Northeast. A police spokesperson said the teenager’s condition has been upgraded from critical to stable. Authorities said all three people attended a birthday party hosted by the homeowners who remain unidentified.

“That’s why we continue to preach the basics to our swim instructors and for parents who bring their children in [for swim lessons],” said aquatics manager JoMarie Tablang at the Brandywine pool. “You just never, ever know. We preach water safety all year. We just hope everyone gets it.”

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://bit.ly/3xQo5i4, drowning ranks as the second leading cause of death among those ages 1 to 14 behind motor vehicle crashes.

The agency noted Blacks count as over five times more likely to drown than whites based on factors such as access to swimming pools, lack of desire to learn how to swim and choosing water-related recreational activities.

“Not knowing how to swim is generational,” Tablang said. “You have a parent who is fearful of the water and they instill that in their children. How do we break that cycle?”

Water Safety Tips to Follow

With COVID-19 still a primary concern and vaccine hesitancy remaining a challenge nationwide, participation for swimming lessons remains limited. No more than four participants along with a parent may enter the water. Swim lessons at various levels for those up to age 12 can be found at selected indoor pools in the county which include: Brandywine, Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover, Theresa Banks pool in Glenarden, Fairland Aquatics Center in Laurel, Allentown Splash pool in Temple Hills and Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool.

To boost water education, the county’s parks and recreation and the Red Cross will offer free online courses starting Monday, May 17 to become a water safety ambassador and a safety course for parents and caregivers. Some of the instructions will include understanding the risks of drowning, basics of water skills and confidence around water.

Safety guidelines outlined by the Red Cross at https://rdcrss.org/33h1ltc include:

• Teach children to always ask for permission to go near water.

• Swim in a lifeguarded area at the beach.

• Always swim with a friend.

• Designate a “water watcher” with skills in CPR who keeps a flotation device close by and bears the “sole responsibility” of supervising children while in the water.

Back in Brandywine, Damir Hamlet, 5, participated in his second swim lesson May 5 kicking his feet, submerging underwater and using a flotation device alongside his grandfather, Eric B. Bowman, chief of staff for Prince George’s County Councilmember Sydney Harrison (D-District 9) of Upper Marlboro.

Bowman asked Damir, “Are you afraid of the water?”

“No,” Damir said smiling.

When asked if he enjoys the swim lessons, Damir smiled again and said, “Yes.”

Victoria and Grace Ayeni also seemed to have little fear as they smiled almost the entire time in the water.

“They had fun but also learning to be safe,” Olayinka Ayeni said about his daughters.

It’s unclear when registration will open for swim classes next month, so parents and guardians are advised to check periodically at www.pgparks.com/1036/Swimming-Lessons.

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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